Meltzer's Musings: Streit, CHL Playoffs, Worlds, MacLeish and More
1) One year ago, Flyers alternate captain Mark Streit led all NHL blueliners in power play scoring and ranked 10th overall in scoring among defensemen. As the senior and calmest voice of the Flyers' locker room leadership, he was also consistently someone with his finger on the team's pulse.
Without Kimmo Timonen around, Streit was the closest thing the Flyers had to someone who could fill the leadership void while remaining productive on the ice.
When things went well with the Flyers, many players in the room could address what's going well. However, when things went awry, Streit was almost always the best person to ask for insight. As with Flyers Alum forward Danny Briere, Streit is honest and thorough yet soft-spoken and positive-focused. Timonen could be a little more acerbic in his honesty.
This past season was a tough one for Streit. He muddled through a detached pubic plate that eventually caused him to undergo surgery in November and to be shut down for six weeks. His absence opened the door for rookie Shayne Gostisbehere, who went on to be a Calder Trophy finalist.
Even upon his return to the lineup, the 38-year-old Streit was not as effective as he had been his first two seasons with the Flyers. It took several weeks for him to regain something close to his accustomed form but from the latter part of February onward, seemed at times to be laboring again getting around the ice.
The player insisted at his end of season press conference that he felt fine down the stretch and the playoffs. He noted that his role had changed somewhat -- from being the team's main offensive-minded threat from the blueline (the role Gostisbehere assumed) to being more of the puck-moving have of veteran pairing with defensive defenseman Nick Schultz. Streit said that he felt the pairing had worked well and he thought his own season turned out well.
However, Streit also reluctantly declined to play for Switzerland in the IIHF World Championships, saying that he felt his body needed a rest after the long NHL season. Streit rarely says no to the national team. He's represented Switzerland at eight World Championships and two Olympics.
It did not seem to jibe that Streit, someone who plays through almost anything and holds almost-iconic status within the Swiss hockey realm, needed a rest from "feeling great." However, as best as can be determined (the Flyers have yet to release a final list of injured players and off-season surgeries), the player is OK.
With the exception moving up when Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek had injury-related absences from the lineup, Streit was no longer part of the Flyers' top power play unit after Gostisbehere's emergence. While still a calming presence and a voice of reason in times of frustration, other members of the Flyers' leadership group showed maturation in their roles.
Streit, who will turn 39 in December, has one season left on his contract. Considering the late start he had on his NHL career, it is remarkable that he has 716 NHL regular season games to his credit. While the popular theory is that he has less wear-and-tear on him because of all his years in Europe and the general rarity with which he's missed games in the NHL (if it isn't broken or badly separated/torn, he's going to play through it), it should be noted that Streit
has 1,300 games of total mileage on him at the professional club-team and senior international levels.
The durable Streit has also logged 395 games in Switzerland's National League. He has played 142 games for Team Switzerland (19 Olympic games, 7 Olympic qualifier matches and 118 other IIHF-sanctioned tourney games including the World Championships). He played 47 AHL games before attaining full-time NHL status.
Even if the non-NHL games played abroad were not as physically taxing, Streit has played a whole lot of hockey in his career. It's a career worthy of the universal respect he gets within the hockey realm worldwide. As with Timonen -- who was a little better defensively, but comparable in other ways -- Streit is an undersized player who was not blessed with blazing speed but more than made up for it in smarts, desire and puck skills.
There's a reason why Streit has usually been an alternate or a captain throughout his career, including the captaincy for the New York Islanders and the "A" he wears for the Flyers. (If only the segment of the Flyers fan base that has griped about him since before he even put on a Flyers uniform in 2013 had a clue that "soft", "overrated", "slow", "turnover machine" players don't attain anything in same galaxy of the longevity and trust from coaches he's achieved in this sport).
Streit's age and reduced offensive productivity this season does reduce his trade value this summer if that's the direction Flyers general manager Ron Hextall opts to pursue in roster planning for next season. However, the fact that Streit's contract enters its final season does help in that regard. Additionally Flyers could retain some of his $5.25 million cap hit and get some cap relief to try to fill other needs while lessening some potential overcrowding issues as the club prepares for blueline roster battles at training camp.
At the right price, it is not hard at all to fathom other teams -- especially any contending team that is looking for a proven power play point producer and an additional veteran leadership type -- still having interest in Streit. That is, as long as he is healthy.
If he stays put, Streit still has value to the Flyers even if his role is more akin to the one he played as the 2015-16 progressed. It remains to be seen if Ivan Provorov and anyone else such as Samuel Morin is ready to step into the NHL, and one more of Streit buys both flexibility and depth as well as leadership as the team continues its long-term plan of building from within.
If he goes either before the start of the season or prior to the trade deadline next season, Streit will be missed on and around the team by those who know and appreciate what he brings beyond just his offensive stats. But business is business.
2) IIHF World Championships: Team France suffered a 5-1 setback at the hands of Slovakia on Sunday at the World Championshps. Flyers center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, the top-line center and an alternate captain for the French squad, was minus- two with one shot on goal in 22 shifts and 17:36 of ice time. France (1-1-0) will take on Hungary (0-2-0) on Wednesday.
3) QMJHL President Cup Final: The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are one win away from the QMJHL championship and a spot in the 2016 Memorial Cup. The team grabbed a three games to zero stranglehold on the President's Cup with a 2-1 road over the Shawinigan Cataractes on Sunday.
Flyers defense prospect Philippe Myers did not record a point in the game but was named the game's third star for a strong all-around performance. Myers credited with four hits, six attempted shots and was plus-one in the game.
The finale of the game was eventful. With Rouyn-Noranda holding on to a 2-1 lead, Huskies center Julien Nantel was penalized for delay of game with 2:26 left in the game. Myers drilled a Shawinigan player into the boards and received an elbowing penalty with 38 seconds in the game. That gave the Cataractes 12 seconds worth of 6-of-3 time before the Huskies got a man back. Even so, Rouyn-Noranda rather easily killed off the rest of the clock to win the game.
The Huskies will try to close out a championship round sweep on Tuesday night in Shawinigan.
4) WHL Finals: With Ivan Provorov and the Brandon Wheat Kings leading the series two games to zero over the Seattle Thunderbirds, the scene shifts on Tuesday night to Seattle.
5) Thoughts and prayers go out to Flyers Hall of Fame forward Rick MacLeish, 66, who is hospitalized dealing with significant health issues.